SMASD superintendent speaks out against voucher legislation

During Thursday's meeting of the SMASD Board of Directors, Superintendent Ann Kearney expressed her opposition to a school voucher bill now before the Pa. House of Representatives and urged taxpayers to contact their representatives and express their disapproval of the legislation, which she said "could bankrupt local school districts."Senate Bill 1, otherwise known as the "school choice bill," introduced by state Sens. Jeffrey E. Piccola (R-Dauphin) and Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia) would allow income-eligible students in poor-performing school districts to attend other public or private schools through taxpayer-funded grants, or "vouchers."Kearney said the voucher system would handicap public schools financially and academically by "funneling money away" while at the same time requiring those same schools to remain accountable for all the costs and state-imposed proficiency standards associated with public education. "Every dime they take away from public schools is going to increase the cost for taxpayers because we still must maintain buildings, we still have to meet all the mandates that they require of us and I'm asking that everyone out there that is a proponent for public education call [state Rep.] Matt Gabler and let him know we do not want the vouchers passed," Kearney said.Board member Jim Herzing said he wants local taxpayers to understand that with the passage of the voucher bill, the district may find itself in a situation requiring it to raise school taxes and increase its millage to .71 mills, the maximum allowed by law, in an effort to recoup money lost to the voucher system."The bill looks like it might cost $40 million in the first year. With that $40 million spread equally among the 500 school districts, [that] is $80,000 per school district. So we're looking at potentially losing $80,000 just in year one and as each year goes on the program continues to increase," Herzing said.